How to support employees during times of crisis

As a business we’ve been silent about the war in Ukraine, and that’s simply because we’ve not really known what to say. Adding another voice lamenting this terrible turn of events, or changing our logo to blue and yellow in support of Ukraine, just hasn’t felt like the right course of action for us. Internally we’ve been checking in with our team, ensuring that no one is directly impacted, and making sure that our staff are aware of the support we can give them. We’ve shared information about how us individuals can meaningfully support those who have been affected by the conflict.  

While we’ve been looking inwards over the past couple of weeks, we now want to put our internal communications expertise to good use, in the hope that we can help other businesses shepherd their teams through the emotional and mental challenges that this conflict has created. While us sitting comfortably in our homes and offices are of course not the real victims of this war, it goes without saying that such a terrible situation will be having a huge impact on your teams. If your workforce is anything like ours, or that of our clients, you’ll know that doomscrolling is back and anxiety is growing. So how can you as an internal comms professional support your team during this difficult time? 

Reduce the noise in your channels 

Take in to account that employees will be understandably distracted by the news at the moment, so your campaigns may not be getting the cut through you would usually expect. If you haven’t done so yet it’s a good time to review the plans and rearrange what isn’t business critical. If your internal comms may be overwhelming your team, then check out this paper to help you quieten down the noise. 

Make head space for crisis comms 

Challenging as it may be, try to arrange your busy comms schedule to allow for more time to plan crisis comms. This will give you a chance to dedicate more thought to the way you approach the ongoing situation, ensuring that whatever message you are choosing to send to your team is well considered.  

Be careful of joyful comms 

When the invasion began in February, many businesses made the decision to stop positive communications altogether, or at least to hold off on any communications hyping up the success of their own business. As the war continues, and days have turned to weeks, it’s unlikely businesses can or will keep this up. However, while the shock of the initial invasion may be waning in our press and on our social feeds, let’s not forget that for too many this conflict is becoming increasingly more challenging. Be very thoughtful about the joyful comms you are sharing with your team; while you likely won’t want to desist celebrating the successes of your team indefinitely, ensure your language and timings are well considered. 

Know your audience 

The current situation will undoubtedly be impacting different people in different ways. A phrase we used a lot during the early stages of Covid – ‘we might be in the same storm but we’re in different boats’ – really rings true here. While the real impact of this conflict is of course being experienced in Ukraine, the aftershocks are much wider. It’s highly likely that you will have members of your team either from, or with close ties to, heavily affected countries, such as Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Moldova. In our rush to support Ukraine, let’s not risk forgetting the innocent citizens of all countries. 

Increase wellbeing comms 

As happened with Covid, the compulsive need to keep up with the Russian invasion is taking its toll on many people’s mental health. Doomscrolling is back, and anxiety is very likely to be on the rise as the future looks increasingly more uncertain. 

Ensure your teams are aware of the support available to them, from access to mental health first aiders to counselling and employee resources. Take care to remind your team their wellbeing is important to the business and equip them with the tools and knowledge they’ll need to navigate this difficult time. 

We’ll continue to do what we can to be good allies to those in Ukraine, and to those affected by this horrible turn of history. Our role as a business is to help our talented people do great work for clients that a make a difference to our society and our world. We’ll continue to look after our team, so they can help our customers to look after their teams, customers, and the communities around them.